As you are well aware the UPSC civil service mains exam consists of nine subjective papers with descriptive type questions. You are required to score the minimum required marks to get the interview call from the board. Thousands of people take the mains written exam and mostly all study similar material.
The best answer is one that showcases a writing style that is good, neat, systematic, error-free, aesthetic, and one that shows your clean grasp of facts. Aspirants always have a lot of queries about their preparation process such as ‘When to start preparing for UPSC?’ ‘How to start UPSC preparation from the zero level?’ ‘How to start writing practice for UPSC?’ This article is to clear one of these queries.
Types of Questions that Feature in the Paper and the Kind of Answers Needed
There is a fixed unsaid pattern to the questions that are generally asked in the papers. Every question has certain keywords that if overlooked could make or break your scores. The kind of answer needed is descriptive but the kind of content needed varies. Some questions need you to approach it from a particular perspective, some need you to look at it from a bird’s eye view while some just need you to report the facts.
Examine and Critically Examine Questions
When you are asked to examine, you have to probe deeper into the topic, get into the nitty-gritty, and find out the causes or implications of the topic. When ‘critically’ is added before or after ‘examine’, all you need to do is look at the good and bad of something and give a fair judgment.
Comment or Critically Comment
The demand to ‘comment’ is usually followed by a quote or a statement made by some famous personality, or taken out from a famous book. When you are asked to comment, you have to pick important aspects and give your ‘opinion’ on them based on evidence or arguments stemming from your wide reading. Your opinion may be for or against, but you must back your argument with pieces of evidence. These types of questions offer you a chance to consolidate your reading of different subjects to justify your opinion and show the depth of your learning and understanding well. Critically commenting is also forming an opinion on main points but in the end, you have to provide a fair judgment.
Analyze or Critically Analyse
When asked to analyze, you have to approach it methodically and examine the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary. You are needed to conclude with fair judgment, after analyzing the nature of each component part and the interrelationship between them when you are critically analyzing the topic.
When you are asked to evaluate, you have to pass a sound judgment about the truth of the given statement in the question or the topic based on evidence. You are also the one who has to sight those pieces of evidence. Try to keep an open mind when you approach this question as there is a chance to form a personal opinion here.
This kind of question asks you to conduct a whole debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments. You need to keep in mind to approach it from both perspectives equally. No clear judgment is needed to be drawn but a neutral conclusion is to be added.
Tips to Improve Answer Writing Skills
- Increase your reading material. Read good material and pay attention to the writing style.
- Keep your outline consistent. Have a vague outline ready for your introduction and conclusion for answers.
- Do not use unnecessary jargon or technical terms. Don’t over-use outlandish vocabulary.
- Avoid generalizations. Try to be unique in your approach and be inclusive of exceptions and minorities of any kind.
- Do not overdo the embellishments. Overusing case studies or quotes will make your answer tiring and boring to go through. Don’t try to blindly fill in the word count.
- Be original
- Practice makes perfect. Solve as many past questions and mock papers as possible.
- Make your writing error-free as much as possible. Avoiding grammatical mistakes and spelling errors leaves a good impression. Keep your writing legible.
Mere knowledge is not enough to pass the IAS exam. You need to convince the examiner who is to correct your answer booklet that you have good knowledge and ideas to become a first-class civil servant. This is possible by writing simple yet effective answers that not only give the required information but also are a pleasure to read as well. This is a skill that can only be attained through hard work and practice and thus is important to physically write down answers to get yourself accustomed to it.